APEL.Q Case studiesGreece APEL.Q case study in training and the world of work

Validating and recognizing competences of counsellors in local employment agencies


The ‘Back to Work Project’ (European Union, 2011) was conceived so that local employment agencies in Europe could better facilitate the matching process between competences relevant to the labour market and the prior competences and achievements of both unemployed people and migrants faced with the prospect of unemployment. The aim of the project, which ended in December 2012, was to develop and support mechanisms for recognizing and validating the real competences of workers, as well as to enable counsellors in local employment offices to use these mechanisms more widely and in a personalized way.

Validating competences acquired in non-formal and informal contexts is a means to shorten the period of unemployment and promote the transition into the world of work. The ‘Back to Work Project’ drew on innovative practices developed in past European Union projects. These included:

  • Validation of Informal and Non Formal Psycho-Pedagogical Competencies of Adult Educators VINEPAC[1] (Leonardo da Vinci Thematic actions, 2006 –2008, Project no: RO/06/C/F/TH -84201);
  • Continuing Education Designed for Counsellors Working in Adult Education –ACCED[2] (Grundtvig, 2005-2007, 225646-CP-1-2005-RO-Grundtvig-G11); and
  • Assessing and validating skills and competences obtained in family life: FAMILY COMPETENCIES PORTFOLIO –FamCompass[3] (Grundtvig –Multilateral project, 2007 –2009, Project No. 134054-LLP-1-2007-BE-GRUNDTVIG-GMP).

In Greece, the Manpower Employment Organization (OAED) is the public employment agency (PES) providing services to migrants and unemployed individuals regarding their re-integration into the labour market. The advisory services provided by the agency include counselling, career guidance, job search counselling and counselling for entrepreneurial initiatives. Unemployed people and migrants can visit OAED to develop career plans together with employment counsellors. These trained OAED counsellors develop an individual profile (including previous study, work experience, etc.) for unemployed individuals and immigrants, taking their respective career aspirations into consideration. The resulting personal career plan includes suggestions for further training and possible future job positions.

As a partner in the ‘Back to Work Project’, Greece developed mechanisms for recognizing and validating prior competences of counsellors working in local employment agencies so that counsellors could better facilitate the transition of migrants and unemployed individuals into the labour market.

Another project objective was to develop useful and easily applicable counselling instruments to help counsellors facilitate the validation of prior learning of migrants and unemployed, and to match these outcomes with opportunities on the labour market.

Procedures and processes

The following stages were necessary to validate counsellor competences:

  1. Selection stage. Sixteen counsellors were selected as candidates in a coordination process involving the Prefecture of Central Macedonia, the OAED and private employment services and companies.
  2. Self-assessment stage. Candidates assessed themselves against a framework of competences.
  3. Interview. An expert counsellor interviewed the candidates and discussed assessment results.
  4. Observation stage. Experts with at least fifteen years of professional work experience in counselling were employed to observe the validation process.
  5. Consolidation stage. Through dialogue between the observer/assessor and the candidate/counsellor, the results of the two previous stages were consolidated.

Outcomes and ways forward

Of the sixteen counsellors selected, nine were certified.

The development and use of relevant tools was an important outcome. MOODLE, a self-assessment tool [operating in a Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE)] was made available to candidates/counsellors. MOODLE is a type of a sharing and learning platform used globally by several providers including high-profile universities. The Counselling Framework is another tool that facilitates validation of prior learning outcomes in relation to job opportunities. This framework can be used by counsellors, NGO representatives and assessors.

As the project was implemented across different EU countries, it promoted the exchange of best practices in the field of validation and counselling of the unemployed.


CEDEFOP. 2014. European Inventory on Validation of Non-formal and Informal learning Country report Greece.  http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2014/87059_EL.pdf (Accessed 21 January 2016).

European Union. 2011. Back to Work – Counselling Returning Migrants and Unemployed.  http://backwork.eu (Accessed 21 January 2016).


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